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Can’t pay your internet bills? Get help with broadband bills for Sky, BT, Virgin and many more

The past year or so has been unforgiving for home finances. As well as the rising cost of living with increases in mortgages, groceries and energy bills, the price of broadband has soared, too.

Even with the best intentions of signing up to a broadband contract that was affordable at the time, there’s a high chance your internet bill increased by at least 14% in 2023. Unfortunately, more's to come in 2024, although chances are the hikes won't be quite as steep. We understand these mid-contract price rises may have made the previously manageable bill now unaffordable.

There’s no shame in accepting you can't pay your internet bill. But like it or not, when you sign up to broadband, you also have to agree the contract terms. This will always mean you’re expected to pay your full bill, on time, until the minimum term is up.

All’s not lost. Most providers are there to help if you genuinely can’t pay your bills. Rather than ignoring the letters, having an unexpected knock at the door, or completely getting cut off from your internet, if you reach out, you can get support when you need it most.

Over the course of this page, we’re going to walk through the steps you need to take if you realise you can’t pay next month’s broadband bill, or if you’re already behind with your payments. And most importantly how to get help.

We’ll show you who you should get in touch with and the various ways you may be able to ease the burden for the duration of your contract. If you’re no longer under contract, there are plenty of other choices available too.

Broadband Late Payment Advice: Key Points

  • Broadband providers will charge a late payment fee if you miss a scheduled payment
  • Most providers will be willing to help if you’re struggling to pay
  • It may be possible to downgrade your plan, especially if you have TV or phone bundles
  • You may be eligible for cheaper, social tariffs if you’re on a low income and receiving benefits
  • You could have your broadband service cut if you ignore late payment notices
  • Not paying your broadband bill could have a negative impact on your credit score

Get help before your broadband bill is due

If you’ve not already missed a payment, but you anticipate you might not have enough in your account to cover the next bill, you should get in touch with your broadband provider immediately.

In most cases, this will be the standard customer service number, but if you feel nervous and would rather not talk, look for a Live Chat or online form option.

To find the customer support details for your provider, you can look for the appropriate ‘Customer Services’ page in our Broadband Providers list:

But here are a few quick contacts if you want to discuss missed payments, debt management or financial concerns:

Provider Telephone number Live Chat
BT Broadband 0330 1234 150  
Sky Broadband 0333 7591 907 Sky Account
TalkTalk 0345 1720 088
For text relay, dial 18001 followed by 0345 1720 088
Live Chat expert
Virgin Media 0345 6000 789 or 789 from a Virgin Mobile, or 150 from a Virgin landline  
Shell Energy Broadband 0330 094 5801 Live Chat or email
Plusnet 0800 432 0200
Vodafone 191 (free from Vodafone mobile)  

Will I be charged for a late broadband payment?

Many providers will charge you for each late payment. This will normally be added onto your next bill. Costs range from around £4-£12.50. Of course, if you don’t get in touch to discuss any problems or work out an alternative payment plan, this will tot up on top of your broadband bill.

How long can I go without paying my broadband bill?

There’s no grace period for missing a broadband payment without getting in touch with your provider. You may be charged a late payment fee as soon as the day after your unpaid bill date. Once this has been issued, you may either receive a letter or a phone call, along with the possibility of losing your internet connection, or having your service restricted. After this, there are more serious consequences. You may be reported to credit reference agencies (this will affect your credit score), or you may be contacted by a debt collection agency.

Can I change my broadband payment due date?

In most cases, it’s possible to change your broadband service payment due date without having to get in touch with your provider. It’s likely you won’t be able to do this if you already have fees outstanding. You may also have to double-check and confirm this with your bank if you need to change direct debit details. Just be aware, you can’t do this too regularly. For example, with TalkTalk you won’t be able to make payment date changes if you’ve previously already done this within the last three months.

If you change your payment date, it’s likely that your next bill won’t be the same amount. It could be larger or smaller than usual, depending on whether you’ve moved your pay date to later or earlier in the month.

If you’re a Sky Broadband customer, here are some helpful online guides on how to do this:

What happens if I don’t pay my broadband bill?

As always, the key to resolving any problems is good communication. Generally, broadband providers are open to discussion and are happy to help if you’re genuinely struggling with your finances. 

As so many people have been hit by the cost of living crisis, the good news is broadband providers have got much better at helping. A lot give good debt advice and will go out of their way to help you. There are options available including downgrading plans, moving to a social tariff, sorting out a repayment plan or changing payment dates.

The problems come if you don’t get in touch with your provider and ignore any correspondence. As well as risking your credit score, you may lose your internet service altogether. If you fail to answer your provider, the missed payment will be passed to a debt collection agency.

If you don’t want to talk about this over the phone, many providers give you the chance to explain your situation initially with an online form, live chat or email. 

Provider Late Payment Charge Consequences
Virgin Media £7.50 Service restrictions: Broadband speed slowed, TV channels removed (Freeview only), home phone - emergency services only
BT Broadband £7.50 Termination if not paid. Credit reference agencies notified
TalkTalk £12.50 Suspension of services
Vodafone £4.17 Service restricted, credit file updated if more than 30 days overdue
Sky Broadband £10 Restriction of services
Shell Energy £8.44 Suspension of services (lifted if full balance paid within 25 days), home phone - emergency services and inbound calls only
Plusnet £7.50 Service restrictions (extra £5.76 charged to apply and lift these restrictions)

Broadband social tariffs

An increasing number of internet service providers have a special plan in place for those with low incomes. These are known as ‘social tariffs’. If you’re struggling to pay your bills and you’re receiving benefits such as:

  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Housing Benefit
  • Jobseekers Allowance
  • Disability Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit

There’s a high chance you can be moved onto one of these plans by the time your next bill payment comes round.

These tend to be no-frills, basic broadband plans. However, all social tariff plans will be good enough for common tasks such as web browsing, email and streaming.

If you have a mobile contract or TV bundle tied into your current plan, you will have to discuss this separately.

Virgin Media’s ‘Essential Broadband Plus’ package does allow customers to have access to other services such as Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, Netflix and Disney+.

For more information on how to apply for a social tariff broadband plan, check out our guide: ‘Social tariffs and cheaper broadband deals if you’re on benefits’.

Can I get rid of Sky TV or other broadband bundles if I can’t afford it anymore?

Downgrading a broadband bundle is likely to be an option, but you’ll need to discuss this separately with your provider. 

Be aware, if you’re signed up to a mobile phone contract or TV deal with your provider, but this isn’t bundled in with your broadband, there may be a separate number you’ll need to get in contact with. Don’t assume the separate departments will communicate with each other. Play it safe and get this confirmed by your broadband customer service advisor.

Getting a cheaper broadband deal if you're out of contract

Once you’ve sorted out any immediate concerns with your provider, this could be a good time to reassess your broadband service.

Your contract end date should be part of the discussion if you’ve let your provider know you’re having trouble paying your bill. If not, you should be able to find this by signing in to your account, or going through your sign-up emails. 

If you’re no longer in contract, and you don’t owe any money in arrears, you’re free to switch. 

You can use our comparison table to look through the most current broadband offers available at the moment. Think carefully about your choice. You can get cheap, basic broadband deals for under £20 per month, but these tend to ask for at least an 18-month contract agreement.

Check what's available to you by using our postcode checker. You can then use the filters and sort options to find deals within your budget.

Broadband Genie deals checker

An alternative could be to opt for a rolling contract. Although these tend to have a slightly higher monthly cost and a set-up fee, they’re extremely easy to cancel. You won’t ever need to commit to more than a month at a time.

Dynamic deal panel

Although it’s tempting, try to be swayed by lure of a big gift card if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to keep up the payments for the duration of your contract. This could end up sending you round in a vicious circle.

Another way to cut expenses down (if you have data included on a mobile phone plan) is to tether your smartphone to your laptop or tablet. This is only really a good option if you’re a light user and just need to be able to get online to stream, browse or email. It’s also a risky choice if you don’t have unlimited data from your phone provider.

For a more detailed dive into this, you can read our guide: ‘What is iPhone and Android tethering, and how do you use it?’.

Sky Broadband Switching Credit

It’s worth keeping an eye out for cheap deals from Sky Broadband if you want to leave your current provider early. As well as offering Superfast Broadband deals from £27 per month, Sky will pay any early termination fees (up to £100) if you want to leave your current provider early with its switching credit offer. This is a good option if you’re currently on an expensive plan with just a couple of months left on your contract.

See also: 'How to get a credit for switching your broadband early'.

Dynamic deal panel

Get further help if you’re struggling with your finances

Help is at hand if you’re having a difficult time balancing your books. As well as speaking to your broadband provider, it can be a good idea to get in touch with a third party that specialises in debt management.

Citizens Advice is a good start, especially if you don’t feel like your provider is helping you. Alternatively, StepChange debt charity is a fantastic resource that’s available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To phone, you can call 0800 0128 1111 for free from any UK mobile or landline. They’ll be happy to help with any financial concerns, from making budgets to managing your phone bills.

The Breathing Space scheme, available in England and Wales, could also get you up to 60 days’ respite from interest, fees and court action, to give you time to deal with any debt issues.

Broadband Genie is on your side when it comes to getting through this financial crisis, too. Head over to our 'beat the cost of living crisis’ page for more ways to reduce your monthly outgoings, without cutting back on essentials.

Expert Summary

Try not to panic if it looks as if you won’t be able to pay this month’s broadband bill. Communication is key and more often than not, you’ll be able to sort through any problems with your provider. The sooner you do this, the better the outcome will be. 

Help can come in many forms. Simple solutions could be a change to your payment date or more flexible repayment options. Alternatively, downgrades to your broadband package may be available. If you’re on a low income and receiving benefits, there are also discounted social tariff packages available from many providers. You’ll be free to switch to one of these if you can prove you’re eligible.

If you’re out of contract with your current provider, and you don’t have any fees outstanding, you’re free to switch as long as you give notice. As well as finding a cheaper broadband deal, our comparison tables could help you find a more flexible deal without a contract. 

Meet the author:

Online Editor

Broadband Genie's Editor, Emma Davenport, has been contributing to the site since 2007. She has 20 years of experience writing articles, guides and tutorials on consumer technology for magazines and online.

Specialist subject: Broadband advice for vulnerable people

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